Will To Create, Will to Live: The Culture of Terezín

“By no means did we sit weeping by the rivers of Babylon. And our will to create was equal to our will to live.”—Viktor Ullmann, composer

The Nazi transition camp/ghetto Terezín [pronounced tehr-eh-ZEEN], also known as Theresienstadt [pronounced tehr-AY-zee-enn-shtadt], was established in 1941 to hold Jews from occupied Bohemia* before their deportation to the death camps. It is widely known as the site of the staged performances that the Nazis used to deceive Red Cross visitors in 1944 and subsequently exploited for a propaganda film.

But that is only one chapter in a much larger story.

From Jan 9 to Feb 16, 92nd Street Y presents a multi-disciplinary series that explores the cultural significance of Terezín, where 144,000 Jews were sent and 88,000 deported to extermination camps; the series illuminates their art and the legacy of their spirit, which endure.

Despite Nazi terror and the desperate conditions common to the ghetto, the Terezín internees produced for themselves a rich and creative cultural community, full of great music, art and educational activity. Eventually, the Nazis exploited this haven of the human spirit for their own self-serving purposes and propaganda, which has obscured the remarkable and inspirational legacy of Terezín.

In exploring the range of Terezín life, 92Y’s Will to Create, Will to Live: The Culture of Terezín draws from 92Y’s myriad specialties. The cornerstone of the program is a four-concert series with the Nash Ensemble of London, baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and pianists Shai Wosner and Russell Ryan performing music primarily played and written in Terezín itself.

In addition to the concert series, 92Y offers a number of panel discussions, including one with Terezín survivors; a day-long lecture series at 92YTribeca modeled after lectures given at Terezín; film screenings; dance presentations; literary readings; educational outreach to K-3 public school students through 92Y’s music-education program; and an exhibit of art and artifacts from Terezín.

* Bohemia is the region now generally identified as the western part of the Czech Republic.